Seasonal Business, Christmas Trees

Thirty or so years ago, somewhere around October 1980, I was driving along US-31 in the northern area of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. There the highway often parallels the railroad tracks, which were Conrail at the time.

I knew there was little or no railroad business in most of those small towns I was passing thru. Most of them did not have even a single industry, so I was surprised to see green 50 foot PC boxcars on sidings in every little town. Not just
one, but a dozen or so in burgs such as Levering, Pellston, Alanson [all of which are no longer rail served], etc. I wondered why. What was happening? As I traveled along I came to one town which provided the answer.

Large trucks were bringing in freshly cut Christmas trees. A special machine was quickly wrapping them in mesh fabric and they were immediately being loaded into the awaiting boxcars. It was a seasonal business and certainly and interesting one.

Now on my model railroad each fall I make sure that I deliver some empty boxcars to sidings in little towns for a similar movement on the my pike. The modeling could be further enhanced by having stake trucks or semi-trailers arriving loaded with Christmas trees. The trees can be easily made from what craft stores call “bumpy chenille.” This is material that resembles a pipe cleaner but varies alternately in width from about ¼ inch down to almost nothing. Using a wire-cutters it can be cut at the “almost nothing” end and then about 5 or 6 scale feet lower and “presto” you have a scale Christmas tree. Load several of them into an open stake truck headed toward the loading site and you have a scene.

The machine that wrapped the mesh looked something like a large funnel, where the tree was fed into the big end and came out of the smaller end wrapped tightly and ready for shipment. This was mounted on a 2-wheel trailer so it could easily be moved to the next town. To model this, look in grocery store “gadget” aisles for funnels and select the smallest one available. If nothing can be found small enough, a short piece of tubing could be used, approximately 4 foot in diameter. (Half-inch in HO scale.) Cut it to about a 4 foot length. Search Google images for a better picture of such machines [editor's note, here is a link to a great article showing the machine at work: ].

© 2010, 2019, Gregory Peet,